If you needed any evidence that the Newtown Jets' recently-renewed partnership with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks was working, you needed to look no further than the Henson Park sidelines on Saturday afternoon.
Not only had a large, vocal crowd packed onto the hill and King George V Memorial Grandstand to watch the home side take on the Wyong Roos, but two recent Sharks rookies – Jack Williams and Scott Sorensen – returned to the feeder club to show their support. It was a small gesture, but meant a lot for Newtown front-rower Kurt Dillon.
"It's really good to see, it's probably a fair depiction of what Newtown's like as a club," Dillon told NSWRL.com.au after the Jets' 26-24 loss. "It was good seeing the rest of the blokes like Scott Sorensen and Jack Williams come back down and watch the boys play."
I really enjoy coming back here and playing for Newtown.Kurt Dillon
Dillon, a veteran of 57 games for the Jets who this year earned his NRL debut, returned to the Intrust Super Premiership for Magic Weekend after five appearances in the top grade. It's the gradual transition he expected – and he believes the Newtown club makes it easier.
"Obviously getting a chance in NRL was a dream come true and it was good playing up there, but it's good to come back down here and get some minutes and still play against some quality opposition as well," Dillon explained. "They have a pretty stacked forward pack in the first grade side so I thought that was going to be the case – get a taste, have a few runs and then come back down here.
"It's a good club to come to, especially Newtown as you see today. There's a big turnout, plenty of good fans. I really enjoy coming back here and playing for Newtown."
Unfortunately for Dillon's Jets, it wasn't the desired result on Saturday; after leading by 14 points in the final quarter of play, Newtown were beaten by a remarkable Wyong comeback. The Jets had lost star halfback Kyle Flanagan at half-time, but Dillon wasn't prepared to blame that for the two-point defeat.
"We had blokes in the halves playing out of position which is never easy, especially at a level like Intrust Super Premiership," the 23-year-old said. "It definitely made it hard on us but we still took the lead without any genuine halves so we should've defended better. What can you do?
"It is pretty tough to go down like that, especially when we were up by a fairly considerable margin and let them back in the game at the end. We had our chance to win, we just probably didn't deserve it letting them come back like that."
While the Sharks' returning forwards will make the task more difficult for Dillon, he will be eyeing more time in the top grade in coming weeks. Once again named for the Jets in Round 12, he will take on the Western Suburbs Magpies in Saturday's blockbuster Return to Lidcombe clash, kicking off at 1pm and broadcast live on Channel Nine.